This review is based on the re-read of the book because technically I read this book back in high school, but it must have been one of those "reads" i...moreThis review is based on the re-read of the book because technically I read this book back in high school, but it must have been one of those "reads" in which my eyes passed over each word on all the pages but no effort was made at comprehension or retention. The only part of the entire book I remembered was the green light at the end of Daisy's dock, which I probably only recall because some instructor or test question applied a particular (also forgotten) symbolic significance.
Part of me is tempted to write some kind of high school level essay on the themes and symbols in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, probably because any that I may have attempted to write back in school would have been loaded with gibberish based on my lack of insight into the novel then. But instead of boring anyone with such a beast, I'll focus instead on the reading experience as someone checking out The Great Gatsby as an adult for a pleasure read.
The main takeaway I had from the book is how evocative Fitzgerald's prose can be. One thing I remember clearly from the classroom discussions of the book is the way Gatsby (the book) is intended to reflect the style of Gatsby (the man): superfluous, glamorous without accompanying depth, etc. The way this manifested for me in a reading experience was to have maybe a sentence or two about once per page stand out as remarkable while meanwhile the plot (or lack thereof) bored me lifeless.
Strangely, the truth that I found the novel rather dull didn't affect my enjoyment of reading it that much. I certainly didn't read it very quickly, especially for a book this short, but the measured, almost aimless story had a strange sort of appeal like the boredom of sitting on a beach and watching the ocean. I guess tedium without indifference would better be described as idle leisure, and that's what The Great Gatsby felt like to me. I enjoyed reading about a chapter at a time, incuriously absorbing the vibrant descriptions of vapid people living functionless lives in a time not my own.
Toward the end, when the plot finally gets around to developing into something reminiscent of action, the reading went faster but at the same time I enjoyed it less. The fact that there were consequences to the actions of the principal characters—and I understand this is in direct violation not just of standard narrative structure but my own preferences in storytelling—kind of disappointed me. I get why it needed to happen to showcase Fitzgerald's intent, but to belabor my analogy it would be like having an afternoon on the beach end because the ocean exploded.
I'm glad I re-read the book, and am once again reminded how wasted education was on my younger self. Not sure there is any point recommending the book since so many people end up reading it whether they want to or not, but I enjoyed it and can say with authority now that required reading always adds baggage to books they may not deserve. I will certainly be re-visiting other school assignments in the near future.(less)
I had thought, going in to this, that I read Louisa May Alcott's most famous work a long time ago. Several chapters in, I realized that wasn't the cas...moreI had thought, going in to this, that I read Louisa May Alcott's most famous work a long time ago. Several chapters in, I realized that wasn't the case at all. None of these descriptions or events—except where they overlapped the various film versions—were familiar. So okay, what I thought I knew about the book was no longer applicable and I carried on with a willingness to give it a fresh take.
This is one of my wife's all time favorite books. In a way, I get it. As with most tales of bygone eras, especially those aimed at younger readers, there is a romanticism inherent that appeals to contemporary readers. These depictions of idealized life have profound impacts on young minds. Anne of Green Gables, Little House On The Prairie, The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer and many others—perhaps intentionally, perhaps inadvertently—seem to kind of say, "Check out how much easier/cooler/more fun things used to be!" And even now as a supposedly critically thinking adult I spent certain moments in the world of Little Women thinking, "that must have been nice."
But then again we're talking about the Civil War in the case of Little Women so "nice" is relative to your race or, curiously, your gender. What I think stood out most to me reading Little Women is how oddly dissonant Alcott's view of her own gender comes across. On one hand you have at least two of the four titular characters who kind of embody the sort of strong, independent characteristics modern readers might want in a female protagonist. But they sort of seem to try throughout the book to overcome these "flaws," including such dastardly vices as artistic inclination. I had a hard time figuring out if this was the kind of book I'd want my own daughter to find inspirational or not.
The audio version I listened to was an abridgment, which I didn't realize when I picked it up and kind of irked me. I think the worst part about abridgments is not knowing what might have been removed. Was it large sections with key subplots? Just a few sentences here or there? Whole chapters? As a result it's hard to know what issues I had were with Alcott and what were with the edits. For example, in the version I heard, once Meg is married she basically disappears from the story. In fact at that point the story really should be called "The Jo and Amy Show." Which is okay to an extent since they are the most interesting characters anyway, but I wonder if there isn't more about Meg and Beth that is in the original version, omitted here. I flipped through one of my wife's dozen or so copies and quickly realized that this wasn't a few passages here or there that were missing, and that frustrates me all the more because I still don't feel like I've read the book all the way through.
I'm giving Alcott, generations of readers, and my wife the benefit of the doubt on this one. I probably won't pick up the full text and read it right away but I will probably read it to my daughter at some point, so my opinion here is necessarily asterisked due to the annoyance of the truncated version I went through. But I will say this much: Alcott has a way with words in certain sections that are quite unexpected in their potency. A particular scene ((view spoiler)[Beth serenely passing away (hide spoiler)]), which I knew very well was coming, caught me unguarded with how moving I found it. This is a solidly written book with a quiet sense of happiness and familial bonds that I enjoyed very much and am glad to be that much closer to understanding part of what shaped my wife's formative reading life.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I've no idea if this was a good place to start reading Agatha Christie books, but I found myself very much enjoying it. This far removed from the poli...moreI've no idea if this was a good place to start reading Agatha Christie books, but I found myself very much enjoying it. This far removed from the political climate The Secret Adversary relies on for its setting required some independent research to make full sense of, but once engaged the mystery is as gripping today as it was 87 years ago.
The story revolves around two young friends with more pluck than prospects, Tuppence and Tommy, who decide to become adventurers for hire. Quite by accident they find themselves blundering into a national conspiracy plot where the existence of damaging documents were last seen in the hands of a beautiful American girl who has since disappeared. Everyone wants to get their hands on the documents and the girl, Jane Finn, from the Labour party extremists hoping to use the information as part of a plot to incite revolution to a strange American millionaire claiming to be Jane's long-lost cousin to the British government themselves.
Lurking like a shadow over the entire affair is an enigmatic Mr. Brown, a mysterious figure whose true identity no one quite seems to be sure about.
I thought for a while that the book was perhaps clearly written for a much less sophisticated mystery-story-reader than I, maybe owning to the age of the novel. However, in spite of how clever I thought I was I found myself questioning the conclusion I'd come to in the chapters leading up to the climax and even though my initial hunch proved correct I had to admit that The Secret Adversary is as well-crafted as any of the modern thrillers I originally wanted to compare it to.(less)